Coach O’s is a positive influence
February 20, 2014
Back when smaller schools fought against the big boys for state supremacy, the Greenwave had one of the best wrestling programs.
In the last year of the Super State format, Fallon was in position to win the school's first-ever state title. Harvey Dahl finished his career with a state crown but Fallon fell short in the final match to finish second in Elko in 1999.
When Louie Mori retired from the high school program, the Greenwave were hanging in limbo with an enormous void not only at the helm but also with the large departed senior class that came so close to winning everything. Fallon's future as one of the state's most consistently dominating wrestling programs was in jeopardy.
Then came an energetic and charismatic man from Montana who loved everything about wrestling. From the passion to the required hard work to the dedication needed in order to be the best, Mitch Overlie set out a goal to return the Greenwave back to the elite status of Nevada wrestling.
It wasn't easy as Fallon dropped down close to the bottom of the 4A, coming up every once and awhile for air. Fallon struggled for the first couple of years, making that 1999 runner-up team a thing of the distant past.
With a philosophy in place for a couple of years, the wins started to pile up for the Greenwave.
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Fallon went from one of the worst programs in the division back to the best of the class. Because of Overlie's commitment to the sport and his encouragement and admirable approach with the student-athletes, Fallon turned out state champion after state champion.
While the team hasn't won a state championship on the mat yet in Overlie's 15 years, Fallon has come close several times. The Greenwave finished second in the final years of the 4A before switching to the Division I-A four years ago. Then there was the impressive 43-dual winning streak that took the region by surprise.
Win after win. Pin after pin. Fallon was the class of the 4A and proved year in and year out to make other coaches envious.
Spanish Springs eventually took down Fallon and ended the dual winning streak but soon after the match, coach Joe Imelli credited Overlie and his coaching staff for creating a model of consistency for every school to follow. And while depth issues have prevented Fallon from dominating in the Division I-A like it once did last decade, Spanish Springs has thrived in the spotlight since Fallon's exit as the Cougars won their fifth regional crown in the last six years.
Overlie is one of the longest tenured coaches currently coaching at Fallon and has been able to resurrect a program that seemed likely it would fade in the abyss of high school wrestling. Instead of ending up like one of the bottom dwellers each year, Overlie's commitment to excellence with his wrestlers eventually turned the program around as the Greenwave started winning.
As the saying goes, winning is contagious. And so was Overlie's influence on the program as he not only turned out great athletes on the mat or on the cross-country course, but he supplied them with the tools to survive past high school.
He is a life teacher, a mentor first. Coaching came second.
"In life, there are not too many individuals you stumble upon that have the ability to impact your life and the lives of others around you. Coach Overlie is one of those individuals," said Trent de Braga, who was a state champion under Overlie. "Coach Overlie exemplifies the epitome of not only a coach, but a role model. Coach Overlie has made a lasting impact not only in my life, but in the life of the community and those around him."
Overlie sets the bar not only for himself but also for every person he touches. He wants the best out of you, even if it meant coming to the gym before sunrise for conditioning or taking a practice off in order to catch up with your studies.
In a world overshadowed by negativity and disappointing leaders and role models, Overlie is anything but. His character, leadership and dedication to helping his student-athletes achieve the impossible should be a mandatory blueprint for every coach to follow.
"He always made us train hard because he knew the capability and skill we had to go out and win, and so training turned into motivation on how to get through a tough grind and come out victorious," said Colin Merkley, Fallon's last individual state champ. "It taught me a lot about life in that way."
Strong, dependable leaders don't come by that often with the ongoing change and coaching carousels that occur every year in high school athletics. Overlie never puts himself before others. Even with the re-emergence of the hazing scandal from four years ago trying to overshadow the current team's quest for the school's first state title, Overlie wants the team to wrestle for themselves and not for him.
"I don't want them to wrestle for me. You've got to be selfish. You have to wrestle for yourself. I can't wrestle for them," he said. "I want them to just keep their head on straight and wrestle. I'm not satisfied yet. It would be great to walk out with a title. It's maybe a little bit of a long shot, but these guys can do it."
However, with the uncertain future of one of the school's greatest coaches, we can count on the Greenwave wanting to win this one for Coach O. While a state championship may not completely rid the foul taste of casting out Overlie from Greenwave athletics, it will prove once again that Overlie is one of the best things to happen to this school, town and county.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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